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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/14/11

Update on the Pandemic Disease of the 21st Century

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In June 2011, I posted an alert that the pandemic disease of the 21st century was on the rise. That disease -- Posterior Alimentary Canal Syndrome (PACS) -- continues to gain traction. Frankly, it looks like it's out of control.

The chief symptom of PACS resists any potential cure. Sufferers have their heads up the posterior end of the alimentary canal (also known as the rear end). That placement severely narrows their vision and intensifies the self-absorption that characterizes the disease; sufferers embrace the philosophy of solipsism, in which they are only aware of themselves and appear not to know that others exist.

I noted that PACS was rampant on social networks, which give the afflicted platforms with endless opportunities to self-brand, celebrate themselves, and glorify the trivia of their lives. A quote from comedian Bill Maher offered the perfect example of a PACS communication that might appear on Facebook, Twitter or a text message: "I'm taking a sh*t and eating a banana."

Some alarming incidents of PACS infestations have prompted medical experts to initiate more intensive tracking of PACS -- and to issue a global plea to medical research institutions to step up the race to find a cure. Sadly, though, no public health initiatives have even begun to stem the rising tide of PACS.

When a woman was recently ejected from the "quiet car" of an Amtrak train in Oregon, after sixteen hours of nonstop cell phone chatter, experts expressed despair at the record-breaking symptom flare-up. Epidemiologists worldwide wondered if this incident signaled "a new more lethal strain of PACS."
Indeed, they have good reason for concern, as more and more reports of PACS infestations pour in to PACS Central.

Author and psychotherapist Dr. Marcella Bakur Weiner recently reported witnessing a disturbing PACS incident that suggests PACS may be reaching a new level -- group infestation. While Dr. Weiner was trying to enjoy a quiet dinner with her husband in a fashionable Manhattan restaurant, two couples at an adjacent table engaged in a high-volume, intensely graphic discussion about their experiences with oral sex. Dr. Weiner stood up, faced them, and expressed a restrained objection to their choice of conversation in a public place -- and the invasion of her space. To her dismay and disgust, she received a typical PACS response. "What's your problem?" one of the men barked. The women smirked dismissively. The other "gentleman" sneered openly. To those familiar with PACS symptomatology, this is not surprising: interpersonal disturbances don't register for PACS sufferers simply because "interpersonal" requires at least two participants in a give and take. For people with PACs there is only one player: ME -- and now possibly MY group.

One promising note comes out of a report from Asia. We may have identified the original source of PACS. Eminent New York City based psychiatrist Dr. Hae Ahm Kim, just back from a two-month visit and lecture tour to Korea and Japan, astutely observed striking similarities between PACS and the well-known addictive disease PC Bang, which has swept Korea and other parts of Asia. While PC Bang is primarily an addiction to PC gaming, the consuming self-absorption of PC Bang--similar to the main symptom of PACS -- strongly suggests that PACS may be a more pervasive and lethal mutation of the Asian affliction.

In Korean, "bang" means room or place. PC Bang refers to the network of inexpensive high-speed internet parlors/cafes where millions of Koreans exercise their addiction to gaming. South Korea is the most wired nation, with the world's fastest broadband network, which reaches into 90 percent of homes. 22,000 PC Bang parlors have the most advanced technology to fuel this addiction.

The gravity of the problem in South Korea was revealed when a man was sentenced to two years in prison after he and his wife "allowed their three-month-old daughter to starve to death while they raised a virtual child, for up to half a day at a time, at a 24-hour internet cafe. The same month a court sentenced a 22-year-old to 20 years in prison for clubbing his mother to death after she complained about his online gaming habit, and earlier this year a 32-year-old man dropped dead after a gaming session that lasted five days."

Korean psychiatrist Dr. Kim Tae-hoon, commenting on the psychological consequences of PC Bang addiction, noted: "In South Korea it is easier for citizens to play online games than to invest in their offline personal relations through face-to-face conversations. People are becoming numb to human interaction."

The intense self-absorption and withdrawal from social interaction characteristic of PC Bang may be the seed that grew into the self-absorption and lack of awareness of others that is the chief pathological marker for PACS infestations. I was painfully aware of this phenomenon last weekend as I strolled on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Couples and groups filled the lively outdoor restaurants and cafes that line Second Avenue, but rarely did I hear or see any conversation or interaction. Almost everyone was staring at a screen or texting. A few talked animatedly -- but to someone on the end of their phone line, not to their dinner companion. I was tempted to say, "What on earth is more interesting or alluring than the gorgeous person sitting across from you? Are you even aware that you are with another human being?"

While the violence exhibited in some PC Bang incidents has not significantly crossed over to PACS, public health experts and law enforcement agencies are worried. They are watching out for violence, as reports of PACS infestations accelerate. The incidents of infestations are too numerous to list here. But PACS Central is gathering data and a comprehensive report will be issued soon.

You can also learn more about the PACS emergency in my YouTube alert.

On another positive note, we have a few reports of moderate success from PACS squads and individuals using the recommended social humiliation technique: pointing a finger at the PACS sufferer and shouting PACS,PAC,PACS -- A PACS on you!

To strengthen the humiliation procedure we are currently investigating a suggestion that came out of our Transylvania research lab. Might a PACS Squad symbol on a tee shirt or badge have the same disabling impact as brandishing a Cross in front of a vampire? The results of a phase-one double-blind study on this research should be available soon.

Please report your sightings of PACS infestations in comments below, so that we can include them in our tracking of this dangerous pandemic. Only by acting together as a group can we combat an outbreak that threatens the very foundation of a civil society.
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Bernard Starr, PhD, is author of The Crucifixion of Truth, a drama set in 16th century Italy and Spain. Starr is a psychologist, journalist, and professor emeritus at CUNY, Brooklyn College. At Brooklyn College Starr taught developmental (more...)

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